Jane Austen: A serial flirt with a hangover

Fri Apr 25, 2008 6:17pm EDT
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By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (Reuters) - Jane Austen fans who think the novelist was a country mouse may be shocked by a new British TV drama that depicts her flirting, suffering from hangovers and reneging on the acceptance of a marriage proposal.

But the screenwriter behind "Miss Austen Regrets" believes anybody who has read her books will recognize Austen as a woman of brilliant wit who knew her way around society.

"I am not dishing the dirt," Gwyneth Hughes said. "Some people might not like to see Austen with a hangover, but I am not out to shock."

Helen Lefroy, a distant relative of Tom Lefroy, a friend of Austen's, said the novelist may have been a live wire "but she wasn't wild."

"We know so little of her, but I do not think she was looking for marriage. She was looking to understand the relationship between men and women, which she used in her novels so well," Lefroy said.

The script for the BBC production, to air on Sunday, is based on the 100-plus surviving letters by Austen to her devoted sister, Cassandra, and to her young niece, Fanny.

Austen, who wrote the classics "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility," never found her own Mr. Darcy.

But the drama features a number of romances as well as a proposal of marriage, which the 27-year-old Austen initially accepted and then turned down after a night's reflection.   Continued...